(c. 4,000 BC- AD 220) by Lance Wilson and Michael Holland

"A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions." - Confucius (

A picture of Confucius, the most famous Chinese philosopher.

The ancient Chinese were among the most influential people in ancient history. Their civilization is based around the Huang He, or Yellow, and Yangtze Rivers. Believing it to be the center of the world, they calledit Chung Kuo, or Middle Kingdom. They believed that Pan Ku, a giant and the first man, built the universe during a period of 18,000 years. They also believed in an era of Hero-kings. Among these was Yu the Great, who was believed to have tamed the Yellow River and introduced irrigation and flood control. They also were told of Empress Si Lingi, who ruled around 2,650 BC and learned how to turn silk into a cloth. These early Hero-kings were also believed to have invented marriage, music, and the wheel. They were also strong believers of the Venerations of Ancestors, which was based around the concept that the dead watched over their living descendants. They were highly respected and their was a place at their spot at the table where food would be placed as an offering to the ancestor.
Han Fei Tzu, the philosopher who ws the founder of Legalism.

The first dynasty that was believed to have existed was the Xia Dynasty, which began around 4,000 BC, and consisted of the legendary sage emperors. There is little evidence to support that this dynasty actually existed. The first historical dynasty was the Shang Dynasty, which lasted from 1750 BC-1122 BC. It was based out of the city of Anyang. Their greatest king was Wu Ding, and their greatest general was his favorite wife, Fu Hao. The Shang invented bronzemaking, the yoke, and the lunar calendar. The next dynasty, which began in 1122 BC after Wu Wang
overthrew the Shang king, was the Zhou Dynasty, which lasted until 256 BC, making it the longest dynasty in chinese history. They believed that they were given the right to rule by the mandate of heaven, which meant that the power to rule came from the gods. But they must rule wisely and justly, or they would be overthrown by a new king. Among the Zhou inventions were the plow, fertilizer, the use of iron and jade, and the Grand Canal, a waterway linking the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. Towards the end of the Zhou Dynasty, beginning in 403 BC, was the period of Warring States, in which seven feudal lords battle for control of China. In 221 BC, Qin shih Huang Ti took control and became the first emperor of China. It was from this dynasty that the name China comes from. The dynasty did not last long, however, and Liu Pang, the exalted emperor of Han, set up the Han Dynasty in 202 BC. The Great Wall of China was built during this time, and the Chinese experienced a 400 year period of peace, known as the Pax Sinica. The most well known Han emperor, Han Wudi, conquered Korea, Manchuria, and Vietnam in 140 BC. Some developments of the Han Dynasty were the civil service, the storage of surplus crops for later use, paper, and the rudder. During this time the Silk Road was used to trade silk, spices, and tea with the Roman Empire. After the Han Dynasty ended in 220 AD, their was a period of six dynasties, which lasted for over 350 years and was marked by invasions by the Huns and civil war.
The Great Wall of China, built during the Qin and Han Dynasties to keep the Mongols out of China.

Another major part of ancient China was the many philosophies that were developed during this time. Among these was Confucianism, founded by Kung
Fu-tze (meaning "The Master Kung" or "The First Teacher"), whose name was later anglicized to Confucius. He lived from 551 BC- 478 BC. His teachings were based on loyalty, courtesy, hard work, and kindness. He also believed in five constant relationships: those between parent and child, husband and wife, older and younger sibling, friend and friend, and ruler and subject. His teachings and sayings were collected by his students in the Analects. Another philosophy was Naturalism, which was based on the workings of nature and cosmic principles, and dualism, the belief in Yin and Yang, who balanced out everything in the universe. A third philosophy was Legalism, founded by Han Fei Tzu. Han Fei Tzu believed that all humans were evil by nature and must be held with strict rules and harsh punishments to maintain order. The last Chinese philosophy was Daoism, created by Lao-tse, who was known as the "Old Master." His beliefs included maintaining harmony with the way of nature, known as Tao, through inaction, simplicity, and meditation.


View History of China and over 3,000,000 other topics on Qwiki.

Important Leaders:

Yu the Great, tamer of the Yellow River.

1. Confucius - He lived during the Zhou dynasty and started Confucianism. (Above) The sayings of Confucius are popular and still quoted today. He was and still is a huge part of Chinese culture.
2. Lao-Tse - He was the founder of Taoism, and was known as the "Old Master." "Tse" when added to a name means philosopher.
3. Pan Ku - According to Chinese Myths, he was the first man and a giant that worked 18,000 years to create the universe.
4. Yu the Great - He was a hero-king that tamed the Yellow River by introducing irrigation and flood control. Mastering irrigation allowed the Chinese to use agriculture, which began their civilization.
5. Wu Ding - The greatest Shang king who was married to Fu Hao, the greatest Shang general. He held his capital at Anyang.


This video provides an overview of Confucianism.


A loosely compacted yellowish-gray deposit of windblown sediment of which extensive deposits occur. The loess was caused the Huang He to be known as the Yellow River.
The term used when talking about foreign people who couldn't speak Chinese. There were generally not given equal rights due to the lack of being able to communicate with the Chinese.
Teachings of Confucius that involved loyalty, courtesy, hard work and kindness. Confucianism was conducted by the five constant relationships that dictated how people treated other people.
The idea that humans were evil by nature and need harsh punishment to set them straight. Legalism was created by Han Fei Tzu and called for authoritarian rulers who could deal out harsh punishments.
The group of people that inspected government officials to make sure they did their jobs. They would report directly to the throne.



Important Events:

  • 4000 B.C. Chinese civilization begins with the Xia dynasty, a time of legendary sage emperors.
  • 1750 - 1122 B.C.Shang Dynasty starts, being the first historical dynasty.
  • 1122 - 256 B.C.Zhou Dynasty starts and ends and was the longest Chinese dynasty in history.
  • 551 B.C. - 478 B.C.Life of Confucius during the Zhou dynasty. He started a government based on his teachings.
  • 512 B.C. The book The Art of Warby Sun-tzu is created.
  • 403 - 221 B.C.The Period of Warring States in which 7 feudal lords battle for control.
  • 221 - 207 B.C.The Qin (Chin) Dynasty is started under Qin Shin Huang Ti's reign.
  • 202 B.C. - 220 A.D. The Han Dynasty is started after Liu Dang leads a revolt against the Qin (Chin) dynasty.
  • 220 - 589 A.D.The time of six dynasties that had civil wars and invading Huns.
  • 400 A.D. Mahayana Buddhism is created in which Buddha is viewed as a God.

For More Information:

The British Museum
This site will allow you to explore some of the arts and writing of Ancient China. There is also information on geography.
History for Kids
This site if full of information. Not just the history basics, but has everything on religion, daily life and art.
The origin and ideas of Confucianism from Wikipedia. It also shows the etiquette that it called for.
Ancient China Timeline
This site is a big timeline from 4000 BC all the way to 1949 AD.
Everything on the dynasties from the Xia to the Ming dynasty and an additional powerpoint are all on this site.